How to Host the Perfect Poker Night with Friends

The last year or so has brought about a lot of questions about social activity: whether people can spend time together in the same room, what social distancing measures should be taken, and how to keep yourself sane while remembering how to be social in person. As of this writing the prevailing wisdom is that yes, we can start spending time with friends and family as long as we follow some guidelines for our wellbeing (as well as that of others). In other words, provided precautions, it’s time to see your friends!

While many are comfortable heading out into public, there’s also some appeal to hanging out in a more controlled environment –– as in, having friends over to your place as you ease back into social life. And this brings us to the concept of a home poker night, a somewhat “old-school” but nevertheless excellent way to share some quality time with friends. Here, we’ll share a few tips to make hosting a poker night a breeze, regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro.

Set up the room

First and foremost, let’s forego the kitchen table and get a real card den going (or use a poker table topper for whatever table you can use). Dim the lights, assemble some comfortable chairs, and put some music on in the background. You may want to invest in a decent card/chip set as well. Some good ones can be had for about $90, which is no small purchase but is more manageable than most would expect –– particularly if your friends want to chip in. Otherwise, feel free to improvise with an old deck and make do with whatever you like in lieu of chips (coins actually work quite nicely)

The important thing is to piece together a gaming setup you and your friends will have fun with.

Cater to new players, too

New players may be intimidated by the possibility of losing money (if you’re playing with real money), or just of being embarrassed. But there’s plenty you can do as a host to alleviate these issues. First, be sure to go over whatever variety of poker is being played in clear terms, perhaps with a few demo rounds. Second, make sure there’s an available guide regarding the different hands people can assemble. It will sound simple to experienced players, but printing out standard poker hand rankings to have on display will often make a game both smoother and more fun. Beginner-level players, if any are at your poker night, will appreciate it as a quick and easy reference (not to mention it will help them learn). Additionally, if there’s ever a misunderstanding about, say, who wins when a Straight goes up against Three-of-a-Kind, having a readily available reference will keep it from becoming a full-fledged disagreement.

Have food and snacks

Food brings people together, and it’s especially important if you are also planning on serving drinks during the night. One popular idea is to have a sit-down dinner before the game begins, and then put out an array of finger foods later that guests can pick at easily while holding cards. If you’re planning on offering drinks, meanwhile, stick to bottled beverages or drinks that can be mixed beforehand (so there’s no need for preparation on the spot… and no mess!). Don’t forget to offer some non-alcoholic drinks as well.

Have a movie on hand

Whether it’s a poker or casino movie, or just something fun that everyone will enjoy, it’s always a fun idea to have a movie on hand. It can serve as a plan B (always be prepared!), background noise, or entertainment for any late stragglers that don’t want to go home right after the game. Movies give everyone something to talk about and enjoy together –– plus they may give your more introverted friends a chance for a quiet moment if they need one after dinner and poker.


Poker night can be the perfect way to get back to socializing with a group of friends. Whether you and your crowd are beginners or pros, games offer a fun distraction and something to bond over together. On top of that, everyone in your group will be grateful that you’ve given them a reason to get out of their homes, which they’ve probably seen enough of over the last (nearly) two years. Just make sure to follow any health suggestions to make sure everyone stays healthy and safe!